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Colleges 'have a huge stake in this community'

Wednesday, December 09, 2009  
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By Cathy Bayer
RRSTAR.COM
Posted Dec 09, 2009 @ 10:00 PM

ROCKFORD — Leaders of the community’s higher education systems will meet Thursday to discuss what those institutions offer the region.
 

The event, sponsored by the Rockford Chamber of Commerce, will bring together the four anchor colleges and universities in the area — Northern Illinois University, Rockford College, the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford, and Rock Valley College. Those entities make up HEARRR — the Higher Education Alliance of the Rock River Region.

Jack Becherer, president of Rock Valley College, plans to talk about on the value of those colleges — "not only in providing academic programs, but being willing to lead the entire academic system,” he said.

Becherer’s goal: "Engage our college in making the community all that it can be,” he said.
That could be through Rock Valley College, or HEARRR, or something Mayor Larry Morrissey called for in March 2008, called City University of Rockford.

His idea is to develop the kind of higher-education programs needed to attract and keep middle-class workers and their employers in Rockford.

That plan is still in the works, Morrissey said, and won’t reveal many more details until his State of the City address, which is usually in the spring.

But his plan is to build an education pipeline from Head Start through junior colleges or four-year institutions.

The bottom line? Create opportunities for higher education here in Rockford.

It’s why Morrissey believes conversations like today’s panel discussion are so important.

"The higher-education groups certainly have a huge stake in this community,” he said. "As much as we look to them for ideas and answers, they look to the city and the community.”

Becherer will discuss the idea that education should be accepted as a K-20 process, and no longer separated into finite segments — through 12th grade, an associate degree, or a four-year university.

"They all have to be seen as a seamless path for individuals to reach their potential,” he said.

Twenty years ago, a high school diploma offered enough training to establish a middle-class lifestyle, he said.

And too many residents lack the education to move on to a better career and a better life, Becherer said.

"They not only suffer as individuals and as families, but they also diminish the possibility that our community can be thriving and successful,” he said.

HEARRR wants to change that, he said.

"Education is the key to prosperity,” Becherer said.

This story appeared at http://www.rrstar.com/news/x987137024/Colleges-have-a-huge-stake-in-this-community on December 9, 2009.


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